Universal Amphitheater; Los Angeles, CA, 07/03/03

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

When I first heard about the Poison / Vince Neil / Skid Row tour, my general feeling was so what? I had been only a casual fan of Skid Row and never really cared for Poison. I am a huge Motley Crue fan, and a Vince Neil fan, but to travel the 60 miles to L.A. just to see Neil didn't seem quite worth it. So, I casually forgot about it.

Then I won tickets at D.J.'s Pub and Sports Bar, a cool hang out in Ventura, when local rock radio station, 95.9 The Octopus, was there giving away prizes. Hey, I figured I'd go see these bands for free - that made the 60 mile trek easily worthwhile.

All I can say now is thank you, D.J.'s and thank you Octopus. Because this show was well worth the drive. In fact, had I known it was going to be this good, I would have bought tickets in the first place.

First up was Skid Row, now touring with new vocalist Johnny Solinger. Despite the fact that the theater was still in the midst of filling up, Skid Row burst onto the stage like they were the headliners. And their performance was so strong some audience members thought Skid Row should have been the opening act. Solinger's fiery charisma and uncontainable passion gives the band an entirely new freshness - classics like "18 and Life" and "Youth Gone Wild" have been given a whole new lease on life. The band was dead on, seriously back into the music and perhaps one of the best opening acts I've seen in years. They not only goosed up the audience for the bands to follow, they set the tone for the entire evening. Instead of just coming out and doing their thing, Skid Row hit the stage with a "Yeah, try and top this" attitude that gave Vince Neil and Poison a high mark to reach during their time on stage. 

Again, I think Solinger was the key here. Not only does the guy have a killer voice (imagine Sebastian Bach morphed with - are you ready for this? - Sam Kinison!) and you've got the general idea. But it wasn't just Solinger's voice, it was his stage presence. Solinger played directly to the audience, all but daring them not to get caught up in the show. It was heavy metal magic at its best. Solinger claims that the upcoming Skid Row record, "Thickskin" is the best Skid Row album yet and - after watching the band on stage that night (and listening to their terrific, ass-kicking new song, "Thick Is the Skin") - it's hard to imagine that Solinger is exaggerating. I can't wait! At the risk of insulting long-time Skid Row fans, I ask this: "Sebastian who?"

For more information on Skid Row, and to listen to some of "Thickskin," check out http://www.skidrow.com

Vince Neil was up next and delivered a surprisingly effective set of Motley Crue classics. I say "surprisingly" because Vince seemed to be cursed with a seemingly endless series of technical problems. "Home Sweet Home, " perhaps the Crue's most popular ballad, was all but ruined by sound problems and Vince could be seen running backstage quite often throughout the set, after appearing frustrated during particular numbers onstage.

Technical problems aside, Vince rocked hard and even played a song or two from his underrated solo albums. Bottom line: Vince followed Skid Row's impressive performance well and kept the evening's excitement at a peak level.

Finally, Poison took the stage and, I'll be honest - this was what I thought would be the low point of the evening. Even though I was pleasantly surprised with the band's recent greatest hits album ("Crack a Smile ... and More" - click here to read that review), I was never a big fan of the band. I didn't change the channel when their songs played on the radio, but I didn't own any Poison CDs either.

But when Poison burst onto the stage that evening in a wave of fiery pyrotechnics and Kiss-like explosions, I am pleased to admit that I was almost instantly caught up in the show. The band not only delivered some infectiously catchy rock'n'roll, but their live show was one of the most energetic I've seen in years. 

Bret Michaels was a perfect front man, playing to the audience and keeping the fists pumping. C.C. DeVille delivered surprisingly blistering guitar, wailing into truly effective solos more often than I would have thought possible. Rikki Rocket kept the rhythm with pounding fury, despite the fact that most of the pyrotechnics seemed to be nearest his position. Bobby Dall was the real surprise of the bunch, looking more like Mark from the "Mark and Brian" radio show than the cheap transvestite on the "Look What the Cat Dragged In" cover. Dall had so much energy he almost seemed like a character from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" despite the fact that you knew he couldn't have any cables attached to him considering how much running around he did.

With their huge stage show and even huger sound, Poison rocked the Universal Amphitheatre into a frenzy. At one point, I tore my eyes from the stage and glanced at the audience. From the front rows to the back walls, everyone (and I mean everyone) was on their feet, pumping their fists in the air, singing along with the lyrics and, yes, even dancing in the proverbial aisles. 

Okay, the band kinda cheated in the choice of their closing number: KISS's "Rock'n'Roll All Nite." Yeah, they recorded it for the "Less Than Zero" soundtrack, and, yeah, it sounded great here. But the huge confetti cannons and fireworks display was way too reminiscent of KISS. It was almost rock'n'roll plagiarism.

On second thought, I don't care. It was still awesome.

Maybe Poison has improved with age or maybe it's just easier to take them seriously without all the makeup and women's clothing. Regardless, I'll look at this band in a new light from now on, just as I will Skid Row. Both bands proved themselves solidly this evening ... and the addition of Vince Neil was nothing to sneeze at. If this show is coming to your town, go see it now! You'll be so glad you did. Even if you, like me, find yourself pleasantly surprised.

For more information on Poison, check out http://www.poisonweb.com

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Copyright 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:15 -0400.